Western Series Finale

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 The 2005-2006 Western Series saw a record number of drivers; 93 in Sportsman and 38 in Championship. For the finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the weather wasn’t stellar (off and on rain), but the racing was really good, which is usually the case at Laguna. The Championship division title had already been clinched by Alexander Rossi (at 14, the youngest Regional titlist ever), but Sportsman and Masters were still up for grabs. There were four first-time winners, too: Jules Duc, Peter Husser, Vaughn Horvath and Brad Ahlm.

G1R1 (Sportsman)
Jules Duc took his first-time win after taking the lead two laps into this damp 17-lapper. Great tussles down through the field up through lap 12, then an FCY resulted in a green-white-checker restart. As everyone crossed the line at the finish, it was Duc, Reynolds, Peter Husser, Max Hyatt and John Adams, but Husser and Reynolds had contact in T2 on the last lap and got the requisite time penalties that gave second place to Hyatt, a fine third to John Adams, fourth to Gray Gregory and fifth to Craig Conwell. Big Al D. got one of his better finishes, a sixth, while Reynolds and Husser were classified seventh and eighth. And what about the Sportsman points leader? Alan Baia suffered a mechanical on lap two. And that meant his championship lead over Gregory was down to 15 points – and he was starting DFL for Sunday’s race…

G1R2 (Sportsman)
Oh, boy. It was raining, so the drama of the title fight was only heightened. Husser made a brilliant start in the tricky conditions and took the lead by Turn Six! He motored away, and even a full course caution halfway through didn’t faze him. (Polesitter Hyatt challenged in the beginning, but he drove through the sand in T2 and did well to work back to sixth at the finish, behind the good drive of Sarena Traver.) Meanwhile, Gregory needed to finish high and Baia low if Gray wanted to snatch the title. Gregory got the ‘‘high’’ part – he finished second and earned 30 points – but Baia wouldn’t cooperate on the ‘‘low, working his way brilliantly from 10th to fourth at the end, 20 seconds behind third-place Reynolds and with another 24 points in his pocket. With the one-race drop, the final tally was 310 points for Alan, 285 for Gray. Well done, Alan Baia, well done!

G2R1 (Championship)
Championship runner-up was at stake, with Jeff Kaiser and Tom Roberts in the hunt. Making it even more interesting was that this group also had some ringers in it! For John Mefford, and John and Revere Greist, this was their sole Western Race Weekend, and all three are fast like you read about. And Kaiser was starting 14th, 11 spots back from Roberts. The race itself was a cracker, as the Brits would say. The track was dry, and with a whole bunch of fast, take-no-prisoners drivers, this was a wild affair. A late caution bunched the field; Roberts was leading, Ende second and Mefford third. Fourth was Tim Traver and Revere fifth. With tremendous dicing, bobbing, weaving and side by side action, the last two laps were great. Mefford went from third to the lead, Revere grabbed second, and Ende salvaged third. Traver and Roberts rounded out the top five, while Kaiser did very well, getting up to seventh (27 points) at the end, one second behind Ted Ballou. Accounting for the drops, Roberts was now 32 points behind Kaiser

G2R2 (Championship)
Just so you know: It started out damp, got ‘‘wet’’ mid-way, then ‘‘full wet’’ with five laps to go… At the start Revere snatched the lead from Mefford and Ende lost, then got back, P3. There was dicing everywhere. The Race Notes are filled with ‘‘sideways!’’ and ‘‘CLOSE!’’and ‘‘Oh, My!’’ and ‘‘huge slide!’’ and what it came down to was Mefford, running a stalking second the whole race behind Revere, with three laps to go took the lead from Revere in Turn Two as the rain got heavier. Next lap, it all went to hell in a handbasket for Ende and Greist, as they had contact in Turn Three and their races were done. So when the checker flew, and after Quentin Wahl was assessed a 20-second, it was Mefford, Roberts, Keith Basso, Traver and Kaiser. For Kaiser, the 33 points made sure he kept second overall in the championship, as Roberts just fell shy, 432 to 417.

G3R1 (Sportsman)
Lots of Sportsman drivers this weekend, and in this one there were plenty of lead changes between Yukinobu Nakayama and Jules Duc, with polesitter Vaughn Horvath also in the hunt. Brent Brush saw action near the point, as did Alan Wong. Lots of position changes in this dry race, and Duc eventually prevailed, 13 seconds to the good over Nakayama. Horvath crossed third, but he and Brush had brushed near the end as they squabbled over P3, so after their penalties Wong got third, James Devenport fourth and some guy named Tiny Al D – he’s a hip-hop DJ in Squirrel Nut Zipper, Minn. – got a solid, ‘‘big’’ fifth. Frank Pray’s sixth had him ahead of Horvath and Brush, with Keith Houchin, Ludovico Manfredi and John Adams rounding out the field.

G3R2 (Sportsman)
In the [very] wet, with the field having shrunk to six starters, Nakayama and Horvath put on a great show, after an early FCY to get Houchin out of the litter. Nakayama led the first three laps, then Horvath took it over after Nakayama spun in T11. It took a while for him to catch up to Horvath, but he finally did it in T4 on lap 12. But Nakayama couldn’t hang on, as he spun off the exit of 10! Still, he was far enough ahead of third-place Devenport that he still bagged second. For Horvath, it was his first Series win, a beautiful effort in the wet. Manfredi and Wong rounded out the runners.

G4R1 (Sportsman)
More Sportsmen! Ted Ballou led the last 11 laps in this dry 17-lap race, in a tremendous effort coming up from row six on the grid. Lots of action, and with a late FCY (lap 13), Sprague Theobald and Brad Ahlm had another shot at the win. But Sage Marie and Mike Kolacki had contact in 11 just before the re-start, and Brent Brush spun in front of the field in Turn Five on the next to last lap and so the top three didn’t change. With Kolacki, Marie and Brush each assessed 20 seconds, Ron MacFarlane was scored fourth (he crossed the line fifth), Peter Muravez fifth.

G4R2 (Sportsman)
In the wet, even a four-off couldn’t stop Brad Ahlm from taking his inaugural Race Series victory – in what was just his second race. Ahlm, a karter who did the Shoot-out this past January, led the first lap, then an FCY for one lap meant a re-start on lap three. And that’s when Ahlm fell off the road in T10. That gave the lead to Theobald, who led all the way to lap 13 (including another lap of FCY mid-race). Mike Binswanger was having a great race, running second to Theobald. But meanwhile, Ahlm was recovering from his four-off and pit stop, and by lap eight he was up into third! On lap 10, Ahlm was into second because Binswanger had to retire with damage. Two laps from the end, Theobald got loose and Ahlm pounced, leading the way to the checker. Sage Marie had a terrific P3 going until he crashed it in the Corkscrew, handing third over to Fabrice Weill, who had to overcame a contact pit stop.

Masters Western Regional Run-off
Leaving Las Vegas, Jeff Kaiser had a relatively comfortable points lead of 44 over Tom Roberts, but Regional Masters titles are settled with a one-off finale. The track started out damp, but it began to rain again just before the start, Kaiser and Roberts on the front row. Here are the verbatim race notes… ‘‘Starting to rain again.. Lap one, side-by-side, good start. 39 [Roberts] leads – 97 [Dom Bastien] goes under 53[Kaiser], who’s P2, in T2, but can’t make it stick… Roberts with good lead all the way up to Corkscrew… Quentin Wahl down the inside of 24 [Alan Baia] in T11… Lap two, good battle for second place, but Dom has bent wing. Big slide by Kaiser [P2] at exit of 8! Lap three, Roberts is WAAAAAY ahead. 38 {Sprague Theobald] spin in 11… Lap four, all quiet on the Western Front… Lap five, where did Kaiser lose second place [to Wahl]. Bastien spins in T11… Lap six, seven and eight are event-free up front… Lap nine, Spraigue makes contact with wall in 11, retires with damage under the bridge. Still the same [Roberts, Wahl, Baia] up front. Lap 10, Wahl spins in Five! No four-off… Lap 11, Dom under Kaiser in ‘Screw for P4!… The finish, Roberts, Wahl, Baia, Bastien, Kaiser, Gray Gregory… Kaiser wins the Masters title! (by 6 points, over Roberts)’’

This season, folks, was one of the best Western Region years on file. Much thanks to Tom Roberts, a ‘‘social organizer’’ of the first order! Tiny Al D, King of the Crunkers, was a bi good-guy, too. There are too many other people to thank – taking a look at the complete standings for all three divisions would be a great place to start!

Special congrats to the top three in each group: Alexander Rossi, Jeff Kaiser and Tom Roberts in Championship; Alan Baia, Gray Gregory and Matthew Reynolds in Sportsman; and Kaiser, Roberts and Baia in Masters.

The Western crew did a fantastic job this year – we really can’t thank those boys and girls enough!

And just like that, the Midwest and East start anew – the big combined event at VIR is May 5-7. It’s also rounds three and four of the Masters National. But even before that, the Skip Barber National heads to VIR for rounds three and four, as part of the Grand-Am Rolex and Grand-Am Cup pro race weekend, April 21-23.

Oh, a reminder: Skip Barber ‘‘takes over’’ Las Vegas Motor Speedway for all of May and June! If you have friends or family who’ve wanted to ‘‘get in a car’’ – Formula Dodge, R/T 2000, Viper, Porsche 911, Bimmer M3 – Vegas would be perfect.

Here’s the link to the complete Las Vegas schedule for Skip Barber

Here are the rest of the Western Series Finale quick links

Go here for all the race results

All the Race Series schedules can be found here

Rack Risotto

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